Despite Racking Up Three Consecutive Unanimous Votes, FOIA Reform Bill Killed Off By Rep. John Boehner


FOIA reform is now truly dead. Earlier this week, it looked as though Sen. Jay Rockefeller might be the one holding the murder weapon. Despite passing unanimously through the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rockefeller placed a hold on the bill, citing nebulous concerns by two regulatory agencies (FTC, SEC — neither of which were willing to go on the record about their problems with the bill) and something about “law enforcement agencies” being faced with “needless litigation” that would be a drain on their bottom lines. Of course, this ignores the fact that plenty of litigation involving law enforcement agencies is “needless” (because why be proactive about misconduct and abuse when you can just settle later?) and that any agency fighting the War on Drugs/Terror has generally been able to secure funding and equipment with a minimum of hassle.

Rockefeller’s hold provoked a deluge pro-FOIA reform phone calls and emails, leading to Rockefeller releasing his hold and the bill moving on with unanimous Senate consent. This booted it back to the House where it ran headlong into Speaker of the House John Boehner, who immediately tabled it.

Newsweek’s coverage of Boehner’s “opaque” move concludes with this paragraph:

But these improvements may never see the light of day, as Boehner has tabled the bill. In a press conference on Thursday morning, a journalist asked Boehner about the fate of the FOIA reform bill to which he replied, “I have no knowledge of what the plan is for that bill.” If the bill does not make the House’s calendar by the end of the day, the bill dies.

The guy who made the plan for the bill (1. Do nothing) claimed he had no idea what the plan was. If the plan was to kill the reform bill, mission accomplished. Death by Rockefeller was narrowly averted only to result in Death by Boehner — despite the fact that the FOIA reform sailed through the House earlier with a 410-0 vote.

The Hill performed a brief autopsy.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday night officially declared reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dead this year as the House gaveled out of session.

And he blamed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for its death.

“And Boehner kills #FOIA improvements,” Leahy tweeted at a reporter a little before midnight after the House finished its work on the “cromnibus” government funding bill — the last item of its agenda for the year.

The wonders of our political system continue. Something that received unanimous support — not only on both sides of legislative branch, but on both sides of the partisan divide — was dismantled by one man. One man who stood in front of a House that had passed the bill 410-0 and said, “Whatever.”

Chances are it was one man swayed by the same regulatory agencies and the industries regulated by them. Transparency advocates suggest Wall Street made a last-minute push to thwart the legislation.

The suspicion among transparency groups is that the financial industry is working to fortify federal open-records exemptions for Wall Street which also exist in states and cities across the country. Those groups also fear the financial industry is aiming to prevent government regulators from erring on the side of transparency when faced with open-records requests for information about the financial industry.

“The negotiation process for this bill has been going on for six months now,” said Amy Bennett, the assistant director of and the point person for a coalition of transparency groups working to pass the bill. “But the banks only started raising objections in the last week. Wall Street’s lobbyists are going to their allies on Capitol Hill and are asking them to delay it. But Wall Street just wants to kill the bill.”

Both Sen. Tim Johnson (who argued against the bill before its last-minute Senate passage) and John Boehner have received large amounts of funding from industries tied to Wall Street, according to information gathered by Boehner stopped the bill in its tracks by keeping it out of Congress’ hands during the final moments of the lame duck session. Boehner’s implicit message is that the good of the special interests outweighs the good of the many. Thanks to this, government agencies are still free to abuse FOIA exemptions and force the truly tenacious to take their chances in the federal court system if they hope to get their hands on documents the government would rather keep buried.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Despite Racking Up Three Consecutive Unanimous Votes, FOIA Reform Bill Killed Off By Rep. John Boehner”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

So unanimous support by everyone involved, stopped dead in it’s tracks, twice, by single individuals.

If they can do this for FOIA reforms, does anyone think the exact same thing wouldn’t happen if someone tried to ‘reform’ the NSA, reigning them in? As this shows, all it takes is having a single person in the right spot, and all the desire for change in the world won’t mean squat.

Now, to be clear, I say this not because I don’t think they shouldn’t try, clearly they should, but rather to address the incredibly foolish claims that ‘You get the government you deserve’ and ‘If you want to fix your government, vote in better people next time’.

When it takes all of one person to stop a proposed law or amendment dead in it’s tracks, even when the overwhelming majority is in support of fixing something, it’s pretty freakin’ clear that the system is rigged against the public and those that would try and properly do right by them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Looks kinda like a Dictatorship, don' it?

If people were told ‘Your government is not a democracy, it’s closer to a dictatorship with a select few individuals in charge’, then they might get angry enough to try and fix the problem, and no one likes uppity peasants.

Lie to them though, and continue to insist ‘No no, you’re most certainly mistaken, the USG is totally still a democracy, and your vote counts! If you want to change things, you just need to vote in better people next time, so really, it’s your fault things are in the state they are’, and most of them will stay complacent.

Throw a little partisan/my tribe vs your tribe misdirection in the mix and people will be happy enough to blame everything bad on ‘the other team’, and completely ignore the real sources of the problems, the corrupt system that both teams take advantage of for their own gain.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Uppity peasants

No one likes uppity peasants

The United States was founded by uppity peasants.

I think you’re right. I think the allure of Fox News is that it always offers the reassuring lie, that cops only shoot / beat bad people, that big business is doing a good job keeping socialists, weirdos and layabouts (e.g. jobless and minimum wage workers) in their place. That our nation has only minor troubles.

I wonder, then how to change the dialogue to make the American plutocracy part of the intrinsic understanding, that we no longer have rights, that the police are a higher caste, that our vote is meaningless, that napoleonic law is kaput and that we get taxed but get no representation.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I really hate this tan in a can abusing sob Boehner more than ever, and now for 2 years of him basically being the Prime Minister (I know that doesn’t exist in US politics, but the situation is a lot like in countries where the PM has the power and the President not so much).

It’s gonna be ugly for you guys. At least we might dislodge Adolf Harper in October, even if he falls to minority gov again, that’ll be really good.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Clarity

I am not a US citizen so please excuse my simple question. How is it possible for a single person to stop a bill like this? I thought everything was voted for by a group of people.

As the leader of the House, Boehner has full control over what is actually brought to the floor. So he basically can veto anything by just not bringing it to the floor, as he chose to do here. Similar issue in the Senate. That’s why the leader of the House and the leader of the Senate are incredibly powerful positions.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Clarity

‘Incredibly powerful’ seems to be an understatement here, with that kind of ability, it would seem they can literally decide which laws get passed, by simply refusing to allow the ones they disagree with to ever be voted on.

For a system that’s meant to have a set of checks and balances to keep individual parts of it from getting out of hand, allowing two individuals to hold that level of power seems to be completely contrary to the very idea.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...